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Aircraft

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Sat, August 7 2010

Thirtieth Anniversary - First Public Demonstration Of Solar-Powered Gossamer Penguin

On August 7, 1980, 30 years ago today, Janice Brown flew the Penguin almost 3.5 km (two miles) that day in 14 minutes, 21 seconds. This was the first sustained flight of a solar-powered aircraft and the longest Penguin flight since development had started on the aircraft two years earlier.

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Mon, July 12 2010

Ike and the First Presidential Helicopters

On July 12, 1957, Dwight D. Eisenhower became the first president to employ a helicopter while in office. Though helicopters had been in operational use by the American military since 1944, concerns over their safety caused the Secret Service to bar their use for the nation’s chief executive except in case of emergency.

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Fri, June 25 2010

Six Decades Since the Korean War

Sixty years ago, before dawn on a humid June morning, a massive North Korean ground army, and aircraft flown by Soviet pilots, pushed across the border into South Korea. Troops and tanks had obtained complete surprise and rapidly advanced deep into South Korea. Only a valiant defense by the...

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Fri, June 11 2010

10 Cool Things You May Not Know About The Museum's Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird

1.  Continuous, Supersonic Afterburner. Ever wonder what causes the diamond pattern in the SR-71 jet engine exhaust?  It's due to the extra thrust provided by the afterburner which is actually supersonic, creating successive shock waves that show up as the diamond pattern.  The...

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Fri, June 4 2010

Take a Look at These Cockpits

Many visitors express the wish to see the interiors of aircraft and spacecraft on display in the Museum. But to protect these historic treasures, they must be displayed behind barriers, which makes it impossible to see inside. But there are several cockpits you can see in the Museum, a day devoted to getting up close with aircraft, some cool electronic views, and a couple of great books that give those who are curious some excellent interior views.

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Tue, May 11 2010

A Crash Made Famous on TV

May 10 may ring a bell for fans of the 1970s television show The Six Million Dollar Man.  On that day in 1967, a NASA research aircraft, the wingless M2-F2 lifting body, crashed in the California desert. A film clip of the crash opened the popular weekly show about the gravely injured fictional pilot, Steve Austin, played by Lee Majors.

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Thu, May 6 2010

Following the Hindenburg

The superlatives tend to pile up pretty quickly when it comes to the rigid airship Hindenburg, the pride of the Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei line...It’s a shame, though, that the Hindenburg is remembered today primarily for its tragic final flight.

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Fri, November 20 2009

Ultralights Are for the Birds

Add wildlife conservation to the growing list of special jobs that only ultralight aircraft can do. Right now, a volunteer group called Operation Migration is using Cosmos Phase II ultralights to lead a flock of endangered whooping cranes on the first migration of their young lives, from Wisconsin to Florida. The excellent control and performance of the ultralight at speeds much slower than more conventional aircraft makes this possible. After months of intensive training, the Operation Migration staff have trained the birds to follow the ultralight as though it were another crane.

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Fri, November 6 2009

Saving Jenny

The Smithsonian acquired its Jenny in 1918, only days after the Armistice ending World War I.  The airplane was re-covered in the 1920s, and remains completely original from that time.  The Museum's Jenny is one of the true jewels of the collection.  It has a particular place of pride in my curatorial responsibilities, and the whole museum staff has a great soft spot in our hearts for our Jenny.  When the opportunity to put it on display in the Mall museum presented itself with the building of the new commercial aviation exhibition, America by Air, a few years ago, I was delighted to make it available to the curator of the new gallery.  When the exhibition opened in 2007, it was a great success and the Jenny looked fabulous on its perch, drawing visitors toward America by Air.  A museum favorite finally was center stage for all to enjoy.

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Wed, October 28 2009

Hiding in Plane Sight

At this time of year when apparitions and fanciful creatures stroll sidewalks in search of treats, it’s a good time to remember that not all aircraft are what they seem.

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